Health Effects of Drought

7 Surprising Health Effects of Drought

Jul 18, 2012 | 2:31 PM ET | MyHealthNewsDaily Staff

With more than half the U.S. currently in drought, concerns have mounted over the consequences of the arid climate on the country’s crop yields. But droughts have far reaching effects beyond the farm, including many effects on human health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).Here are seven potential health concerns that occur with drought:

Bad air

Droughts can reduce air quality and compromise the health of people with certain conditions, according to the CDC. During a drought, dry soils and wildfires increase the amount of airborne particles, such as pollen and smoke.

These particles can irritate the airways and worsen chronic respiratory illnesses, such as asthma, the CDC says. Poor air quality can also increase the risk of respiratory infections, such as bacterial pneumonia.

Valley fever

Drought increases the risk of people catching the fungal infection coccidioidomycosis, or valley fever, the CDC says. The disease is transmitted when spores in the soil become airborne and are inhaled. The condition causes a range of symptoms, including fever, chest pain, coughing, rash, and muscle aches, the CDC says.

The condition is more common among people living in the Southwest than other parts of the U.S., but it is relatively rare — one study reported that 0.04 percent of people in Maricopa County, Ariz., were infected in one year.

Germy hands

In a drought, people may feel the need to reduce hand washing and other hygiene practices to conserve water, the CDC says. This may increase the spread of infectious diseases, such as acute respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses.

“Conservation efforts should not hinder proper sanitation and hygiene,” the CDC says. People can install low-flow faucet aerators to reduce water use while still maintaining proper hygiene, the agency says.

Mental health effects

Those whose livelihood is directly tied to the water supply — including farmers, horticulturalists and nursery owners — may suffer adverse mental health effects during a drought, according to the CDC.

“Financial-related stress and worry can cause depression, anxiety, and a host of other mental and behavioral health conditions,” the CDC says. Studies have found an increased rate of suicide among people living in farming areas during droughts, the agency says.

Unhealthy eating

Reduced rainfall can limit the growing season for farmers, and further reduce crop yields by creating ideal conditions for insect infestations that damage crops. This can bring increases in food prices, or shortages of certain foods, potentially leading to malnutrition, the CDC says. Read the complete article at myhealthnewsdaily.com

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